Last Alteration: Monday 19 September 2005
"Go on, go have your lovely beans on toast."
So, what's the new "Doctor Who" series like? Well, it's like "Doctor Who"; some of it made my palms slick with 'embarrassment-sweat', some of it I slyly liked, some of it made me proud to be British in that peculiar, Beatles-y way, and by the end I was ready and willing to watch the next episode.
Since it's always far easier to focus on the negatives, I'll get those out of the way.
The worst thing by far is the incidental music, a massive problem as it makes every other aspect of the show seem overly dramatic, shoddy or, frequently, both. It's there right from the beginning too so manages to get things off to a really bad start. It mostly sounds like some 80s computer game based on 'The Man from UNCLE'. It really needs sorting out urgently.
Mickey, (Rose's boyfriend) is rotten - unless they're going to do something dramatic plot-wise with him later in the series, then he really doesn't need to be there. Making him black looks like a very clumsy attempt to do something 'right on' c.1987. If this is an effort to widen the appeal of the show (not that any of the black people I know turn off TV when there are only white faces on), then it's a shame that Mickey ultimately turns out to be, at best, irritating and at worst ignorant, self-centred and cowardly. That he's just sort of 'dismissed' by the end of the story means he's of no more concern to us than any number of other 'this week.s special guest star' characters. The scene with his 'evil double' is like a bad dream, and not in a good way.
But what of this Christopher Eccleston bloke we've all heard so much about? Well, most of the time he really works, managing to seem effortlessly 'out there', without resorting to forced eccentricity, though I could have really done with something a little less blatant than a speech about feeling the Earth move. At other times he just seems retarded- you half expect Pauline from 'League of Gentlemen' to roll her eyes and hiss, 'Thank you Mickey, love' after some of his dialogue.
This 'gritty' take on the Doctor takes some getting used to, but whatever else the RTD version of WHO presents us with, I'll be eternally grateful that someone's finally realised that there's no need for the Doctor to be built out of Edwardian coats and grafted on obsessions with quirky, English things in order to make him seem wild and wacky.
When a creative team is working as well as they should be, then an audience will clock what's supposed to be going on behind a character's eyes without any need for forced 'pointers'. That's absolutely the case here where the TARDIS and the Doctor's background are effortlessly summed up in a handful of dialogue exchanges, two of which are the word 'Yes'. Excellent. This beautifully sums up how the show should work at full throttle; wrong-footing audience expectations and creating a whole conflicting range of responses with minimum of razzle-dazzle. Brilliant. Or as the Doctor would have it, "Fantastic!"
Titles - The Vortex does the trick - we can be certain that it was rendered on a computer, but looking at it (particularly the end credits) one can imagine Bernard Lodge in the 70s busy filming cigarette smoke rings through colour filters and painstakingly overlaying them all into infinity.
It's a shame then that the TARDIS is bunged in, rattling about like a peanut in a washing machine to impress us all that this is WHO for an age of CGI. Having the stars. names zoom around as spinning 3D legends is a bit tacky too
Man-eating wheelie bin - Present and correct and not all that badly done. It's tempting to say that you tend to grow out of finding burping funny when you're about eight, but of course that's partly the audience they're aiming at here.
The actual story is extremely slight, as soon as the Doctor's finished describing the Nestene threat he produces from his pocket a 'one I made earlier' solution to the menace. But then with time being pretty tight it's naturally much more important to introduce viewers to the show's characters and core concepts in this first episode.
Bearing this in mind, the Autons (called living plastic here - it's a nice touch to not overload viewers with too much jargon so early on) are a far cannier choice of first menace than they might initially seem. All you need to know in order for them to work as monsters is obvious as soon as you see them; they're spooky, human looking inanimate dummies that suddenly jolt into life and have guns for hands. That.s it - and kids will either find that disturbing or silly
Still, it's a shame that the Doctor failed to do anything particularly clever in order to defeat the Nestene - business as usual there though of course.
Oh, and the sonic screwdriver gets used way too much in this story, especially when turning a door handle might have kept up the pace just as well.
On balance then, don't get too excited, there's plenty that'll will leave you feeling that it.s missed the mark, but I think that once it gets going it might be a fun adventure show, which is all I really want it to be.
I just hope we never see Mickey the boyfriend ever again.
And get that incidental music sorted.
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